Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vancouver, Most Livable City, No Highway

...according to the Economist's latest rankings, maintaining their top spot from last year. It is important to note there are three primary 'curators' of these rankings, the Economist's Intelligence Unit (this set), Mercer's Quality of Living Rankings (of which the Economist pips certain data metrics), and the Monocle. The Mercer rankings generally come out in late Spring. You can see the most recent version of each from this wiki link. Apparently english-speaking is a critical criteria, as the Economist's rankings are shockingly anglo-centric:

1Vancouver Canada98.0
2Melbourne Australia97.5
3Vienna Austria97.4
4Toronto Canada97.2
5Calgary Canada96.6
6Helsinki Finland96.2
7Sydney Australia96.1
8Perth Australia95.9
Adelaide Australia95.9
10Auckland New Zealand95.

You can buy the entire Economist report here for $500, or you can piece together bits from around these here internets. As for American cities, the top 10 goes something like this (with Pittsburgh finishing 29th in the world - "we're number 1!"):

The top 10 U.S. cities are:
1. Pittsburgh
2. Honolulu
3. Washington DC
4. Chicago
5. Atlanta
6. Miami
7. Detroit
8. Boston
9. Seattle
10. Minneapolis

Detroit, say wha? There isn't much rhyme or reason to the American cities. Usually, some measure of regionalism is apparent. I'm guessing the Economist (unsurprisingly) is heavily skewed towards affordability, which is why European cities that populate every single livability ranking otherwise are nowhere to be found (i.e. Copenhagen, Zurich, Munich, Vienna, Helsinki). This smacks of the ridiculously stupid Forbes' completely indefensible rankings they put out about just about any and everything.

To me, even using cost of living is an inexcusable mistake. If there is a connection between livability and desirability, which is perfectly logical, therefore demand is increased resulting in greater prices. Furthermore, high standard of living and high wages translate into more cash money to spend on better housing and therefore a more expensive city. Lastly, highly livable, interesting cities garner a good bit tourist dough further driving up prices from the baseline local economy.

I should add that creating livable cities rankings is difficult stuff. How do you weigh one factor over another? It is all highly subjective. And the best rankings understand that implicitly, adjusting their metrics so that the cities that appeal in the most categories to the broadest segments of the population.

I'm guessing American cities suffer not from affordability or lack thereof, but most often through safety and lackthereof, lack of mobility options, and relatively poor access to healthcare and education, comparatively to the cities above, of course. We're #1! We're #1!

For more on Vancouver, see this link to my field trip report to the most livable city in the world according to the economist, which actually is pretty difficult to argue.

For my definition and explanation of the concept of "livability," click here.